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Our Music, Ourselves: By Citizen Writer Richard Jack Rail
American Citizen 6/9/2021 10:50 AM

Our Music, Ourselves: By Citizen Writer Richard Jack Rail


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Keith Richards taken at a concert in Warsaw on April 18, 2018 Image: Jerzy Bednarski, Wikipedia Commons



Rock stars of the Sixties keep dying and doing it so often that it can’t be ignored.  Gets me to wondering when Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr is gonna kick off.  They're both older'n I am, and if there's any justice in the world they'll go before I do.  But I'm not looking forward to that black album cover with just one Beatle left on it.  I don't even remember which album it was that had all four of their mugs, and then one day I saw it without John and George.

The touchstones of my youth are going one by one.  John Lennon's been gone 40 years, longer than he was in the news and making music.  I heard about his murder on TV while in Washington, D.C.  It was concerning, but his stupid politics always irritated me and he wouldn't just shut up about things most people didn’t want his opinion about.  Then George Harrison bit the dust and that album cover came out.  It stayed with me.  I heard Beatles music in my head the next couple of weeks, a picture singing a thousand songs.

You wonder if your parents' generation were as deeply into their generation's music as your own was.  I see former students of mine on Facebook putting up lyrics from songs by their favorite groups and realize that they're just as wrapped up in their noise as I was in mine.  Kids I couldn't get to memorize short patriotic poems can rattle off whole sheets of rap lyrics.  My folks never did anything like that.  But they had neither TV nor radio, not to mention Facebook, and their lives left little leisure for such silliness.

For years I detested rap.  Then I noticed something: having taken the music out of their verse, only the rhythm and the words themselves can carry meaning.  Most rap, like any genre, is junk, but not all.  I still can't listen to much of it, and to none of the filthy-language stuff.

Mostly I miss this generation's Paul Simon.  He's the one who wrote beautiful, insightful poetry and put it to beautiful, haunting music.  Simon was my generation's muse, not Bob Dylan.

To my ears, Dylan was my generation's rapper.  He was what everybody needs at a particular time in life — someone to embody adolescent rebellion.  The fifties had Elvis and his pelvis.  The sixties, my decade, had Dylan and his nasal, up-yours twang.  Nobody can listen to "Positively Fourth Street" or "Like a Rolling Stone" without cracking a smile.  He came just close enough to blasphemy that we feel the satisfaction of take that! toward our folks, even if we loved them dearly, as most did.

Still, every day, I sort of expect the announcement of Macca's demise.  He and the Beatles were my main men, and when he checks out, only a handful of personal friends will remain of those youngish days when the world seemed electric with promise, with that pleasant, expectant tension in the belly.  I can still get enthused over sports but not concerts.  When I want music, on go discs of Dionne Warwick and the Everly Bros and the Mamas and Papas and Spanky and Iron Butterfly and Strawberry Alarm Clock and, sometimes, the Stones.

When I want to feel those days, on go Simon and, especially, the Beatles.  When those guys die, the living tie with the golden era of rock and acid rock will be sundered.  I had the great good fortune of being there at its inception and during its heyday.  Perhaps all generations feel lucky to have lived during the birthing of the music their generation gave rise to.  I hope so.  Once the talented who made that magic depart, their creations are all that's left of their golden youth.

And ours.

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